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Bike Camping - Tips for Beginners

Bikepacking is a terrific way to explore new places. Load your bike and head out on a camping trip with these tips!

Bike camping is a great way to travel for beginners and pros alike. Not only can you load your bike with all your gear so that you don’t have to carry a thing. But on two wheels you can also cover greater distances than you would by foot. This means you can travel easily from place to place and check out more destinations on your camping trip.

Packing your bike efficiently and bringing the right gear is crucial to a smooth excursion. Here are some tips and bike camping basics that will help you along the way. We’ve also interviewed the Olars family, a family of adventurers in northern Sweden and writers of the Aktivt Familjeliv blog. They share their tips for biking with kids.


In this article:

 

What is bike camping?

Bike camping, otherwise known as bikepacking, is when you head out on a camping trip with your bicycle. Bikepacking generally refers to camping trips where you bike from destination to destination. But you can also head to one single spot and set up camp for a longer period of time.

 

Why you should go bike camping:

  1. You can cover greater distances than you would on two feet. This means you can camp in remote areas further away, or travel from place to place and camp in destinations that are far apart.
  2. Your bike will carry your camping gear for you. With the right bike accessories, it’s easy to bring your things along.
  3. Once you’ve set up camp, you can ride around and explore the new location on your bikes.
  4. You can bring your kids along in a child bike seat or a bike trailer.
 

How to pack your bike for bike camping:

With the right bike accessories, you can easily fit all your camping gear on one bike. So how do you maximize the space on your bicycle? Here are some accessories and ideas on how to pack them:


Bike racks: Strap your sleeping bag or tent on top and attach your panniers on the sides.

If you attach a bike rack to both the front and back of your bike, you can bring four panniers and attach both a tent and sleeping bag. Even if your bike doesn’t have a rack, you can attach one like the Thule Tour Rack which fits lots of different bicycles.


Bike panniers: For your clothes, food and cooking gear.

Panniers are bags that attach to the side of your bike rack. You can equip your bike with two large ones at the back, and maybe even two smaller ones in the front. The Thule Shield Panniers are waterproof and have compartments for your smaller essentials.


Handlebar bag: To store your wallet, rain jacket and other small gadgets.

Handlebar bags are bags that attach to the handlebar for quick access to your important stuff. It's perfect for storing your wallet, a map and a rain jacket in case the weather turns bad.


Seat bags: To store your biking tools.

Every bikepacker’s worst nightmare is a punctured tire. So, it's important to carry tools along with you. A seat bag sits right under your seat and is a convenient spot to store your multi-tool, pump and inner tube, in case disaster strikes.


Hydration pack or hip pack: To store water, smaller gadgets, and snacks.

Even though it's best not to carry something heavy on your back hydration packs are lightweight, smaller backpacks that can help you stay hydrated and give you easy access to a much-needed snack along the trip!

 

(Put your sleeping bag on the deck of your rear bike rack and your tent on the deck of your front bike rack. With four bike panniers, a handlebar bag, seat bag and a biking backpack, you’ll have lots of space!)

 


Duffle bag or backpack: store your sleeping bag, clothes, food and other camping gear.

Another less conventional way to pack your bike is to secure a duffle bag or hiking backpack to your bike rack with bungee cords. Of course, while this is not a method for well-seasoned mountain bikers, it can be a simple option if you want to try bike camping for the first time and happen to have a duffle or a backpack handy.

 

Packing tips:

  • Make sure that you’ve distributed the weight evenly between the front and the back of the bicycle.
  • When packing your panniers, put the heaviest things at the bottom.
  • Pack light! Compact towels, sleeping bags and tents are ideal for bike camping.
  • Try to cut down on the amount you bring with you, you’ll never regret a lighter load, but you will regret bringing three pairs of shoes!
 

Bike camping gear list:

  • Pannier
  • Handlebar bag
  • GPS or map
  • Smartphone bike mount
  • Lightweight backpack
  • Hydration pack or water bottle cage
  • Bike tools
  • Bike pump
  • Inner tube
  • Snacks
  • Helmet
  • Riding clothes
  • A change of clothes, and jacket in case of bad weather
  • First aid kit
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Compact camping towel
  • Flashlight
  • Camp stove
  • Food
  • Camping plates and utensils
  • Wipes
 

Biking with kids

The Olars family are Thule Family Life Ambassadors living in Hälsingland in the north of Sweden. This family of five loves exploring the great outdoors and trying out a new sport. On their Aktivt Familjeliv blog and social media outlets, they hope to inspire others to get out their backpack, put on their hiking shoes and explore the world!


One of their favorite pastimes? Mountain biking. Biking is a great way to travel further distances and it’s easy to bring along your little ones in a bike trailer.


Some of their tips for biking with kids:

  • Choose trails carefully so that they are not too long or challenging for your kids.
  • It’s important to have your trip fully planned out so that you know where you’re going and when you can get back home. You can’t be too spontaneous.
  • That said, be open to changing those plans if need be.
  • Make sure to bring snacks!
  • Take frequent breaks during the trip to play by a stream, climb a big rock or a tree.
  • Keep it fun! After all, fun is more important for the kids than speed or distance.
 

For more inspiration, check out more about Aktivt Familjeliv’s family adventures on their blog or on Instagram @aktivtfamiljeliv

 
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